Beyond the challenge of too much data, regulatory compliance has become more of a day-to-day use...

Beyond the challenge of too much data, regulatory compliance has become more of a day-to-day use of data analytics, creating its own set of challenges. 

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Data is an integral part of analyzing fleet from an operational and performance point of view. With today’s technology, fleet managers have more data at their fingertips than ever before. 

Part 1 of this two-part series delved into the top fleet analytical data points to pay attention to, while part 2 will detail challenges in data analytics, the best ways to leverage data, and tips on how you can get fleet analytical data to work for you. 

Challenges in Data Analytics 

It’s clear that the No. 1 issue fleet managers have related to data analytics is data overload. 

“There’s simply too much data, and fleet managers are busy running their fleets. They know the data could be extremely valuable, but they just don’t have time to put it to work,” said Bill Combs, director, connected fleet, Penske Truck Leasing. 

Thousands of data points come from a truck daily, and it’s very easy to get lost in the information. 

“Many truck fleet managers take on the task of analyzing data, even though time doesn’t allow for it, which leaves optimization improvements up to when they can get to it,” said Boyd of Donlen.  

And, if one truck can generate thousands of data points, a fleet can generate millions. 

“Big data offers big potential, but the reality is that unless you can effectively leverage data to deliver a meaningful impact to your fleet, that potential doesn’t mean much,” said Greg Raven, director, business intelligence and analytics for ARI. 

And, it’s not just the vehicle providing data. Data integration exists across telematics, fuel, maintenance, and lease programs. 

“Access to too much data can make it harder to identify key data elements that drive fleet costs and driver behavior. Some data points will be more impactful for an organization over others; Aligning data analysis with organizational objectives is a great first step in determining the appropriate level of detail and applicable data points needed for a thorough analysis and strategy development,” said Dale Mottram, strategic consultant for Merchants Fleet Management. 

Fleet management companies offer systems that can consolidate large volumes of data from multi-streamed sources.

“This can help highlight not only which vehicles are costing a fleet the most but also why they are costing the most. These systems deliver data modeling that increases a truck fleet manager’s ability to develop tangible action items to improve efficiencies and lower total cost of ownership,” Raven added.

Creating partnerships can help lessen the data analytical load.

“For many fleet managers, the volume of available data is overwhelming. It can be incredibly powerful to work with a knowledgeable partner that understands your fleet and business goals and will help you build a program that meets your specific needs. That includes setting the objectives, building the tools for measurement, and reporting back on success as well as making enhancements to the program,” said Sara Sweeney, senior product manager, connected vehicle, for Wheels Inc.

Beyond the challenge of too much data, regulatory compliance has become more of a day-to-day use of data analytics, creating its own set of challenges. 

“For many fleets, equipping their trucks with electronic logging devices (ELDs) to comply with the mandate was their first foray into fleet management systems. Many fleet managers are still trying to get their arms around the training and organizational complexities that complying with the ELD mandate has added to their operations. As a result, considering the data tools that can help fleet managers optimize their operations is not only of secondary concern, but it also can seem overwhelming,” said David Ward, director of telematics & connected technologies for Ryder System, Inc.

A final challenge is what to do with the millions of data points collected by various systems. 

“The data needs interpretation to identify what actions may be needed to move the needle. For example, short tire life may not be a load or speed problem; low inflation pressure or tire damage could be the culprit,” said Chad Christensen, senior consultant for Element Fleet Management. 

How to Leverage Analytical Data 

Once you know what data your fleet needs to track and address the challenges of data overload and data interpretation, it’s time to leverage the data to optimize efficiencies. 

Utilize the assistance and expertise of your service providers. Combs of Penske Truck Leasing recommends fleet managers work closely with their telematics service providers to get the proper dashboards, alerts, and action plans in place.  

One way to help leverage the data you need is working with the right resource. In today’s marketplace, there are many providers. 

“Even the sources of data and who is in control can create debate. Is it the truck OEM, dealer, telematics provider, or end user? Sorting through and determining what pieces of this information are relevant to the fleet and support the business goals is the challenge,” said Jake Civitts, director of franchise operations for PacLease.

Looking at the fleet’s historical data and comparing it to current information is important. 

“Using historical data and quantifying total potential opportunity is key to obtaining organizational buy-in when implementing a fleet cost and driver behavior optimization strategy. Implementing a quarterly fleet scorecard review process with senior leadership is considered best practice in tracking, validating, and continuing to drive strategic initiatives,” said Mottram of Merchants Fleet Management.

To help analyze this data, statistical data models can assist a truck fleet manager to explore and uncover how a fleet operates over time. 

“Once a fleet manager identifies a problem or an idea for improvement, modeling tools can help prescribe an evidence-based solution to the right stakeholders, at the right time,” said Raven of ARI.

Once you have the data in hand and statistical models in place, you can start to analyze trends

“Trend development is the most powerful output of data analysis. It provides a logical foundation to support change decisions. The data enables validation of the change and supports more operational improvements,” said Christensen of Element.
Interpreting data correctly is important at this stage. 

“Once fleet managers have access to the data, then the work of interpretation begins. They can begin to seek trends (financial data) and look for exceptions (vehicle and performance data), and prioritize how these fit into the company’s metrics,” said Civitts of PacLease.

It is one thing to have the data, but once you have it there has to be a focus on uncovering the trends that are affecting the fleet. 

“Companies need to make sure they have resources, either internally or through a third party, to analyze the data and bring forth insights and actionable information to improve fleet operations. Often, you need to analyze more than one data point to tell the whole story. Having the insights and all of the facts allow fleet managers to make strategic decisions,” said Jason Boyd, vice president of sales – truck services for Donlen.

How to Get Data to Work for You

Today’s fleet manager is overworked and understaffed. Once you have the data you need and work toward leveraging it for increased efficiencies and cost savings, it’s time to make the data work for you. This is the final step to act on fleet data.  

“Telematics delivers information that allows fleet managers to provide real-time driver feedback as well as relevant driver training. In addition, GPS data allows for route optimization, which leads to both increased efficiency as well as cost control,” said Pugh of Enterprise Truck Rental. 

Before you act on fleet analytical data, it’s important to create a roadmap for what you will do with the analyzed data. Setting goals is a great place for truck fleet managers to start. 

“Without the goal-setting process, employing the data can be a directionless task. Pausing the usual daily rush and taking a few moments to ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to achieve and why?’ can help refocus efforts toward goal achievement and not just the act of reviewing numbers,” said Raven of ARI. 

When setting goals, focus on a specific objective, such as accident reduction, fuel savings, or decreased incidents of unscheduled maintenance. 

“This can help narrow the focus to get started. It’s also important that the data being reviewed, and the required actions, are built into the fleet policy so there’s no question about what’s being measured and why. Lastly, managing by exception is really the only way to do it when it comes to telematics data. The sheer volume of data can quickly overwhelm a user if they don’t have a specific target,” said Sweeney of Wheels.

As mentioned earlier, fleet managers need to find a partner in the industry. 

“It’s important to find and work with a partner that can collect and interpret data and provide actionable recommendations to improve truck selection, including which specifications are needed and what the fleet needs to do to improve operations. Look for someone who knows your business, goals and objectives, can look at the data, and help you accomplish your unique goals,” said Boyd of Donlen.

If your company uses a fleet management company (FMC), garner their help with drilling into the data to find developing trends and enable early intervention to avoid larger cost impacts, recommended Christensen of Element. 

“Leverage the data analysis with the chassis and upfit suppliers to enhance vehicle performance and minimize costs,” Christensen added.

Mottram of Merchants Fleet Management echoed the importance of partnering with the experts. 

“After defining and prioritizing organizational objectives, working with your FMC to obtain the right level of data in a workable format is a great first step in implementing a fleet optimization strategy. Furthermore, leveraging a good fleet management platform to aggregate and analyze data will help streamline the process and reduce the administrative burden of collecting and validating data from multiple sources,” said Mottram of Merchants Fleet Management.

And don’t forget that partnerships and experts exist within your company as well. 

“Fleet managers can begin to ask subject-matter experts (both internal and external) to help interpret the data and ensure they are viewing it the same way. For example, controllers tend to be better at spotting financial trends or outliers in certain segments,” said Civitts of PacLease.” Operations managers may help explain some exceptions and with the data fleet managers can start making a decision based on facts and not just what happened most recently.”

Finally, remember that without the right solution, data is difficult to collect and analyze.

“Even with consolidated reporting, it’s still important to prioritize the most important data points into the three categories of cost control, safety, and efficiency. In addition, customers who rent trucks to supplement their fleet often don’t have access to telematics data when they rent,” said Mike Pugh, corporate vice president for Enterprise Truck Rental. 

Finally, make sure the data is shared with all key stakeholders.  

“Share the data outward and upward as much as possible. Showing your progress and results will get attention for the good work the fleet manager and the individual drivers are doing,” said Sweeney of Wheels.

The Bottom Line

Remember, you don’t need to go it alone and when dealing with data and analytics you don’t want to do it all yourself. 

“Truck fleet managers need not go it alone — ask your lessor if they have experienced truck fleet consultants. If they do, use them! They can help with matching the truck to the job and they offer expert support for cost projections and budgeting,” concluded Christensen of Element. 

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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